cubanmiamiboy

La Sonnambula is approaching...

54 posts in this topic

Oh I don't know Richard53dog, once I finally started to pronounce La Sonnambula correctly it made me feel instantly smart and worldly, at least for a few days!

Aha! My own few days have just begun. :lol:

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I've only heard it pronounced So-NAM-boo-lah by opera announcers. I must not have been listening carefully enough.

Yes, that's correct. My spelling is misleading, I didn't mean to suggest that the accent is on the third syllable, but that's how it ended up.

What I was getting at is that the third syllable is often mispronounced, as it would be in in the first syllable of BEAU-ty rather than as BOO, which is correct.

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But to steer back to the heart of the matter --

The part requires the ability to communicate a sense of vulnerability but also amazing internal strength.

Kent was the best in my experience: the otherworldliness, the strange ability to feel the presence of obstacles without seeing them, the ability to impersonal gossamer while also being strong enough to move forever on point. Kent was down at MCB to set the ballet last time around; I wonder if she will return (as she did for the reprise of Bugaku.)

Kronenberg is a taller dancer than Kent, with less of the gossamer. But she also combines strength and vulnerability. Haiyan Wu, the other sleepwalker of 2005, is a slight dancer who seemed to lack the stage presence and strength the role requires, most visibly in her obvious struggle to carry the Poet's body in her arms.

That's pretty much the Kent I saw - and no one has come sailing out of the corner on her first entrance like Kent did, going like gangbusters. (Ferri, in the video linked above, tries; she looks like she needs more coaching. Having seen more of Ferri in the video now, I think she's more the virtuoso and less the enigma with the qualities bart and I are thinking about here.)

With that video available, I hope I'm at less risk of giving something away which is more effectively discovered in the theatre, by offering that the central pas de deux of the Sleepwalker and the Poet is one far removed from the happily-resolved type of 19th-century romantic pas de deux. As we see the Poet begin to discover very early in their strange interaction, after her series of solo sequences about the stage space, he can affect the Sleepwalker in all sorts of physical ways, but he cannot reach her mind. I don't think anything around her registers until, at the end, she encounters his body; and her reaction, finally, then, nearly overwhelms her, and, coming from someone whom we have only seen as very remote up 'til then, it's pretty strong for us too.

I do look forward to seeing Kronenberg, not least in the hope that whatever was clouding slightly her "T&V" in November is now long past. She has quite a range of tone, including the grandeur of that role and the cool command of her Siren; and who knows how Wu has developed since then - casting against type, like this role, can do that - and for that matter, who knows who else Villella may have by now!

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Albertson? Well, we'll see. Playing AD and thinking who would look good in this has led me to some unhappy thoughts, frankly: I think I would like to see Jeremy Cox as the Poet and maybe Deanna Seay as the Coquette, but I'm going to try not to dwell on it.

Seeing your post reminds me, Cristian, to ask how we're doing in response to your original query. Do you feel anything specific is lacking?

I think you did not see MCB's 2005 performances, but I assume you've looked at the video linked to here, which will give you a pretty good introduction as to the action and sound of La Sonnambula. (I heard Bellini's opera some time after seeing the ballet, so I have had some experiences like those described here, only in reverse: Hearing a tune Rieti had used, I could think, Oh, hello, I know you.)

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Cristian, I hope you haven't overlooked the glimpses we get of the ballet in the intro by Villella on this page:

http://www.miamicity.../Sonnambula.php

Here we see their costumes, which are different from but essentially similar to the ones in the video linked to by Bradan (which seems to have been up for over two years), but more important, of course, we see some of the action.

It appears to me, Jack, that the costumes in MCB's video are the very same that ABT used. Makes sense to rent someone else's rather than to go to the expense of hiring your own designer and manufacturing your own costumes, doesn't it?

I adore this ballet. I just hate it when the audience ruins the piercing, climactic moment in the main pdd.

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I adore this ballet. I just hate it when the audience ruins the piercing, climactic moment in the main pdd.

By laughing? Ugh. There was some of that when Suzanne Farrell Ballet danced it in Washington this past November, unfortunately.

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Albertson? Well, we'll see. Playing AD and thinking who would look good in this has led me to some unhappy thoughts, frankly: I think I would like to see Jeremy Cox as the Poet...

Oh, yes...DEFINITELY. Cox is one of those almost extincted dancers whose great charisma can save a ruined ballet night. He was also a great character dancer, one of those who looked as if those roles came out effortlessly-(a la Massine). You don't find those very easy nowadays. I miss him a lot too. :(

Seeing your post reminds me, Cristian, to ask how we're doing in response to your original query. Do you feel anything specific is lacking?

Nothing at all! And I'm very thankful of all posters for the great responses and memories. I even got a full video with Misha on it...! (To be honest, when I was starting to get too excited after some minutes of viewing, I closed the clip...I didn't want to ruin my first live view of this choreography...) :)

I think you did not see MCB's 2005 performances...

You're right, Jack. Confession. I had already made up my mind to give up on ballet viewing after my first and only encounter with MCB-(Giselle)-right when I came from Cuba. Ballet Talk made me reconsider my decision and that's why I went back to explore a little bit inside the Balanchine world... :cool:

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It appears to me, Jack, that the costumes in MCB's video are the very same that ABT used. Makes sense to rent someone else's rather than to go to the expense of hiring your own designer and manufacturing your own costumes, doesn't it?

Spending more time with the two videos, I see that you're quite right, carbro! Both show the designs of Theoni V. Aldredge, credited onscreen in the ABT video and in the MCB program book from the 2004-2005 season, which also leaves no doubt with this additional statement: "Costumes and scenery courtesy of American Ballet Theatre". (Sheesh, makes you think about hanging up your keyboard.) Comparing the two brings out some other differences, though; MCB's tempos are a little livelier, I like Mary Carmen Catoya in "Blackamoors" better than Julie Kent, nobody compares with Misha, and so on.

(Cox was the only Prodigal in my experience to compare with Villella and Baryshnikov, though, thus my wish to see his Poet.)

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Chrisian, one of the interesting things of the original production (yes, Christian, I saw that) were the elaborate masques and head pieces.

How did I miss your post, atm...? and HOW is that I don't get surprised at your personal experience on ballet viewing anymore, atm...? :clapping:

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I think the summary of the ballet rg posted in #20, above, is skimpy, although it gives some indication of what happens on stage. To round it out, here's the rest of Denby's remarks, the passage just before the part I quoted before, which takes more account of what may happen in us onlookers:

To Poe lovers in the dance public... the mysteriousness of Balanchine's Night Shadow [the original title]... is recommended. Mysterious is the interaction of its elements: the vapid ballroom dances; the winsome exhibition numbers that have a perverse and cruel undertone; the elaborate, encircling artifices of the coquette's pas de deux; the directness and space of the sleepwalking scene; the massed mime chorus in unison at the end.

How effective the MCB performances will be remains to be seen; Denby was writing about the premier ones, supervised by Mr. B., and Arlene Croce wrote in Playbill, Jan.-Feb. 1970, about some more he presented (quoted in Nancy Reynolds's Repertory in Review):

The emotions of the ballet comes in a series of nervous shocks, as deeply pleasurable as in a horror story. The ending - is there a finer one in all romantic ballet? - is high traumatic bliss. The pas de deux roles are unthinkably reversed. Now it is the Sleepwalker who claims the inert body of the Poet, accepts it in her arms, and carries it away forever.

The ideas in La Sonnambula are perfectly clear derivations from the romantic ballet of the nineteenth century, but they are forced even beyond the neurotic extremism of Giselle and La Sylphide. The Poet's character as a hero who engages a divine force is not morally shaded. When he dies he is vindicated, but in a manner that anathematizes not only the explicitly anti-romantic society on the stage but all humanity as well. The ironclad arrogance of the gesture makes the real suffering we've witnessed seem like a personal secret accidentally disclosed. It keeps you at a distance, though you may find yourself in tears.

Reynolds also quotes Maria Tallchief, the original Coquette:

Balanchine's so mystical, which not many people realize. Look at Night Shadow, where [at the end] all you see is people looking up, at something - a light. People so often think of him as someone who does steps - mechanical, dry steps - and this is so completely opposite from what he is. To me, his great glory is his wonderful mysticism - he's a poet, really, more than anything else.

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I don't know whether MCB's production, like ABT's, will include the hoop dancers. I never saw this in NYCB's performances. As I remember from ABT's program notes, this was an interpolation by John Taras, who staged it for ABT, and the steps are the same as those that Balanchine learned as a boy for the Candy Cane dance in the Nutcracker. I just played it without the music (it begins at about -6:44 in Part II), and I couldn't make it fit, so I'll have to assume that Taras did some cutting and pasting.

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I don't know whether MCB's production, like ABT's, will include the hoop dancers. I never saw this in NYCB's performances. As I remember from ABT's program notes, this was an interpolation by John Taras, who staged it for ABT, and the steps are the same as those that Balanchine learned as a boy for the Candy Cane dance in the Nutcracker. I just played it without the music (it begins at about -6:44 in Part II), and I couldn't make it fit, so I'll have to assume that Taras did some cutting and pasting.

I wish I could remember what MCB did last time. The original Night Shadow had, according to Choreography by GB, a hoop dance with 4 women. The text (p. 171) is rather convoluted, but as far as I can tell the Hoop Dance was omitted from at least some subsequent productions. And then:
American Ballet Theater, 1981: HOOP DANCE rechoreoraphed by John Taras as GYPSY DANCE.
But by the 1988 taping (the Baryshnikov-Ferri performance) it was back to a Hoop Dance danced by 3 men.

(I can no longer find parts 2-4 on YouTube. Only Part I seems to be up. Huh!

Incidentally, in 1946 Harlequin -- a role played by Edward Villella in the 1961 NYCB revival, was danced by a woman: Marie Jeanne. Can it be the that there were no men, in 1946, capable of dancing that kind of choreography?

All an all, Sonnambula seems to have had rather a confusing history since it chanaged its name from Night Shadow. :wink:

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Incidentally, in 1946 Harlequin -- a role played by Edward Villella in the 1961 NYCB revival, was danced by a woman: Marie Jeanne. Can it be the that there were no men, in 1946, capable of dancing that kind of choreography?

Sure, consider the time frame - WWII had just ended, and soldiers and sailors were awaiting discharge "on points", which points were derived largely from combat service. Most male dancers who had been drafted or who had enlisted were not assigned to combat duty and had to wait well into 1947-8 before their numbers came up.

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Thanks, Mel, for the reminder about the dearth of available male dancers in that period. Balanchine clearly wanted a Harlequin in his ballet, so he found one ... in Marie Jeanne.

Marie Jeanne was famous for whizz bang technique -- speed, stamina, jumps and beats -- beyond the ability of most of the men she danced with. But I don't recall reading about her as being good at "fun.". Obviously, she was. I wonder whether the 1946 called attention to the fact that she was a woman -- or tried to disguise it.

Incidentally, Marie Jeanne [Godwin] lived a long life, dying in 2008. Here's Frank Anderson's obituary in the NY Times, which focuses on her two most famous roles, Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial, both of which she danced for Ballet Russse right after the war:

http://www.nytimes.c...erson%22&st=cse

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I don't know whether MCB's production, like ABT's, will include the hoop dancers.

MCB presented a couple in a "Dance Orientale", one Harlequin and a tarantella for two couples.

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Aha! So they've consigned the Hoop Dance to the dustbin. (Or left it there. Mr. B. tossed it years ago, and MCB didn't do it in 2005 either, IIRC.)

That's okay with me, actually, it reflects Mr. B's practice, and when I saw it in 2002, I thought it the weakest of the four divertissements: As I wrote here at the time, ), Frederic Franklin restored the Hoop Dance to the Cincinnati Ballet's performances of La Sonnambula in October 2002 for their Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo festival; five women rotated through the four roles among the three CB performances.

(The casting of the ballet did not completely follow the historic theme of the occasion and restore "Harlequin" to a woman; two boys alternated each other in it among those three performances.)

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I wonder whether the 1946 called attention to the fact that she was a woman -- or tried to disguise it.

Consider the exit for the Harlequin variation -- a headfirst dive into the #2 wing stage left. Then try to imagine somebody like Andre Eglevsky doing that. :speechless-smiley-003:

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I wonder whether the 1946 called attention to the fact that she was a woman -- or tried to disguise it.

Consider the exit for the Harlequin variation -- a headfirst dive into the #2 wing stage left. Then try to imagine somebody like Andre Eglevsky doing that. :speechless-smiley-003:

Our Miamian Harlequin actually jumped as if into a pool...! Never seen that before... :speechless-smiley-003:

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... The Croquette ,jealous of the Poet's interest in the Sleepwalker, informs the Host of the Poet's flirtations throughout the evening"

Oh, many thanks -- I needed a giggle today!

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I can no longer find parts 2-4 on YouTube. Only Part I seems to be up. Huh!

You can pull them up by copying the title (including cyrillic) as it appears above the video "screen" and pasting it into the search box. Do not include the parenthesized numeral.

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Thanks, carley. Here's the strange part -- I went to back to clip (1) to do what you suggest -- and, this time, the links to the other 3 clips WERE available. I'm sufficiently techno-ignorant to consider this to be an example of white magic. (Edited to add: I tried it a second time but the other three had once again disappeared. Then I tried your suggestion and it worked. Thanks doubly.)

Re: Harlequin. In 2005, MCB gave this role to Luis Serrano and Mikhail Ilyin, in the performances I saw. Serrano came closest to the lightness and quick shifts that John Renvall gives the choreography in the video. I really like this choreography and would have loved to see Alex Wong performing it.

Re: Hoop Dancers in the video. There is a distinct Spanish feel to parts of the choreography, as hen the 3 men do that low (bent knees), fast run from Don Q, while dragging (and displaying) their hoops along the ground just as do the Don Q toreros with their red muletas. I can see how it might be used for an ersatz gypsy dance.

The music to this hoop dance is very familiar -- though speeded up and given a heavier beat. However, I can't place it. Does anyone (Kathleen? Richard?) recognize the Bellini aria from which it is taken? I think it was sung by a soprano, but can't place the opera. Could it be from La Sonnambula itself?

An after thoght: I was wondering what kind of ballet one would find in the opera La sonnambula. Here's a clip from an Opera di Roma production? QUITE different from Rieti and Balanchine.

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Re: Hoop Dancers in the video. There is a distinct Spanish feel to parts of the choreography, as hen the 3 men do that low (bent knees), fast run from Don Q, while dragging (and displaying) their hoops along the ground just as do the Don Q toreros with their red muletas. I can see how it might be used for an ersatz gypsy dance.

The music to this hoop dance is very familiar -- though speeded up and given a heavier beat. However, I can't place it. Does anyone (Kathleen? Richard?) recognize the Bellini aria from which it is taken? I think it was sung by a soprano, but can't place the opera. Could it be from La Sonnambula itself?

That's sort of funny because with all the discussion of La Sonnambula, I decided to watch it earlier today. We must have been on some kind of a tuned in wavelength or something of the sort.

I was a bit startled by the hoop dance because it looks so much like Balanchine's Nutcracker and it was jarring to see it with other music. But to answer your question, the music used in the ballet for the hoop thing is a speeded-up-on-steroids version of the cabaletta to the Mira O Norma duet from Norma. Actually I got a chuckle out of it because I thought it worked pretty well, thinking about the discussion of the arrangements of the various Bellini themes.

Another section that I thought worked nicely is the Polacca from Puritani which is a dance-y piece anyway(although it's used as a kind of vocal rondo in the opera) and is beefed up and used for a sort of Polonaise in the ballet. Hmm, I wonder it was a tiny joke on Balanchine's part, considering the similarity of the terms......

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